Much like carbon monoxide risks, radon gas poses a hazard without any signs like odor or color. Only regular testing will keep you updated on your home’s air quality and the risks facing your family. Radon gas is surprisingly common, but daily exposure to high levels can result in a higher risk for lung cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).1 Find out more to take charge of your family’s health and safety.
What is an acceptable level of radon gas?
The EPA has set an action level at 4 pCi/l (picocuries per liter of air) and recommends installing a mitigation system to decrease the levels of radon if testing reveals measurements at or above this level. This is the safety cut-off for everyday risk that is considered acceptable by most municipalities and local building codes as well.
Why radon is dangerous
Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that naturally results from the radioactive decay of Uranium in rocks, soil and sometimes water. As the gas rises, it can become easily trapped inside a structure like a home or an office building. Routine testing is the only way to know if you’re at risk for radon exposure at home. The EPA reports that radon exposure is the second most common cause of lung cancer,1 following only smoking as a greater risk. If you smoke cigarettes and live in a home with high radon levels, you face a combined threat that may raise your cancer risk further.
Radon is particularly dangerous because it comes from a natural source and can vary in levels over the course of a year as the seasons and weather conditions change. Your home might test at a 1 pCi/liter measurement one month and then return a much higher reading during a different part of the year. Performing both short term and long term radon tests is the best way to get the full picture of your exposure levels. Living in a home with just 4 pCi/liter of radon increases your risk of cancer by the average risk of dying in a car crash according to the EPA. Affordable mitigation equipment and regular testing are all you need to stay safe in a home known to contain radon.
Safe Levels of Radon & Acceptable Levels of Radon
One in every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated by the EPA is to contain elevated radon levels. Depending on your state’s laws, you may be required to complete a radon test during a real estate transaction.
There is no question about it, everyone wants the safest possible air in their own home and workplace. Yet, there is a physical limit of reasonable protection to expect from the gas. One way to be sure your levels are low and staying low over a long period of time is to follow up with a long term test to check radon levels for fluctuations.
How Radon is Measured
You don’t need a professional or a mitigation team just to test your home for radon. This is a simple process any homeowner can handle on their own. Radon levels are easily measured with at-home tests you set up in certain areas and send away for lab analysis. The tests fall into two main categories of short term and long term products.
Short term screenings or short term tests are usually all that’s required for real estate transactions and construction permit requirements. The screening or test will need to absorb gases for at least 48 hours to generate accurate test results for these purposes. For ongoing occupation of the home, try a sequential combination of both short term and long term tests. Set up short term screenings or tests a few weeks apart while running a long-term test in the background for a few months. This way, you’ll get a complete survey of the home’s radon levels over the various seasons.
Make sure you choose an accurate home radon test. Look for NRPP approval and the use of materials like charcoal and alpha track measurement devices. Choose tests with clear instructions on where to place the kit and how to prevent false readings from drafts or open windows. The test kits should include everything you need to complete the test and generate accurate results. Radonova radon tests meet all of these requirements and more. Here is a sample of the instructions included for one of our easy to use devices, our Rapidos Short Term Test Kit.
These common questions and answers may help you clear up any misconceptions about radon and its risks to your health. Understanding how to test for radon gas may reassure you about purchasing a house that results in a high test result during a sale.
Is it Safe to Buy a Home with Elevated Radon Levels?
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a home with elevated radon levels is unsafe to purchase. You should install a mitigation system before moving in if the short term screenings or tests are returning higher than recommended levels of radon. Homes that already feature modern mitigation systems aren’t any more expensive to maintain or risky to purchase than other homes in the same neighborhood. Some homes may even have mitigation systems ‘roughed in’ and only require the simple installation of a fan. Buying a home that needs mitigation equipment is similar to purchasing any other house needing a little work.
Will Radon Affect My Home in the Future?
If you buy or build a home that passes radon tests today, there is no guarantee that conditions will not change in the future. The EPA recommends testing your home every two years2 regardless of previous negative test results. Establishing a routine for testing tells you a lot more about how radon rises and falls throughout the year in your home. If you need mitigation equipment, you may need to test every six months to ensure your system is working properly.
Who Can I Contact for More Help with Radon Mitigation?
The testing stage is fine to handle on your own with high-quality radon test kits. However, it is not recommended to handle mitigation equipment installation on your own. Some states have radon programs that certify contractors for this type of work, but if your state does not, then there are two national accreditations that certify mitigation contractors.
Radon mitigation specialists will guide you through the process of obtaining highly accurate test results and pinpointing the primary sources of the gas entrance. Sealing cracks in the foundation, closing up gaps around windows and doors, and putting in positive air displacement systems can all reduce radon levels.
Can Granite Countertops Release Radon?
Granite, like any natural stone used to build homes or decorate, contains many of the minerals that release radon gas from the soil. The sparkling crystals embedded in your countertops may include thorium and uranium, two minerals that release radioactive radon gas as they break down over time. The EPA says that granite countertops can release extremely small amounts of radon each year but don’t pose a serious or particular risk. There’s no need to remove your granite countertops just to reduce your radon levels.
How Do I Know My Radon Mitigation System is Working Properly?
Routine testing is the only way to ensure any mitigation equipment is working properly. Most mitigation systems can’t integrate testing equipment directly into the system since it’s actively moving air out of the home to reduce radon levels. Long term test kits are used in other parts of the home to track the results of the system. If you get an unusual test result or notice the system isn’t running for long periods of time, you should have it inspected. Annual maintenance from a professional radon mitigation specialist is also important to keep your equipment running smoothly and adjusted to the latest readings from your tests.
What Should I Do If I Want to Sell a Home with High Radon Levels?
Check out your state and county regulations regarding radon testing and your responsibilities as a home seller. In general, short term screenings are used for real estate radon requirements. If you have previously tested high, you may want to install a mitigation system to make your home more attractive to buyers. Some states and counties require this from sellers who are aware there is radon gas present. Other areas simply require disclosure of the test results to all potential buyers so they’re aware of the risk. Talk to a real estate agent or the local deed office to find out what’s required for the sale.
Do Some Areas Have Higher Chances of Developing Radon Problems?
There is no part of the U.S. completely free of the risk of radon gas exposure. Yet there are also some states and regions that experience higher rates of exposure than others. Iowa, Utah, and North Dakota in particular are known for developing higher than average rates of radon gas exposure in the home. Don't rely on radon maps published by anyone other than the EPA. Even the EPA's maps of county-level reports will only tell you the general risk for your area. This is no replacement for regular testing with home kits. Radon levels vary from home to home on the same street due to soil variations, building styles, and structural conditions. No matter where you live, you should invest in regular testing to check the actual conditions inside your home.
How Easy is Home Testing for Radon?
Each home testing kit for measuring radon levels comes with complete instructions. You can place multiple test units in different parts of the home for more accurate measurements of the total radon exposure level. Once the testing period has passed for a particular test, you simply pack it up in the included mailer and send it off to be analyzed. The materials used in the center of the kit trap radon dose to create an accurate snapshot of the air quality conditions. There’s nothing difficult about these home testing kits that would make them hard to use on your own.
Radon testing should become a part of your home maintenance routine just like checking the foundation for cracks and cleaning the gutters. Perform a test at least once every two years at minimum to stay on top of developing conditions. You can never guess when soil conditions will change or the settling of your home’s structure will allow more gas to enter. Only regular testing can keep you informed of the gas levels in your home. Just like you wouldn’t go without CO² or fire alarms, don’t skip your radon testing either.
Radonova makes it easy to measure your home’s radon levels at any time. You can set up the tests on your own and then send off the results for professional analysis. Shop our selection of radon tests today to find the right option for your needs. Whether you’re testing your home to meet real estate transaction requirements or for personal reasons, our QuickScreen, Rapidos or Radtrak2 products will give you all the information you need. Choose Radonova for radon testing you can trust.
- A Citizen’s Guide to Radon: The Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Radon
- How often should I test/retest my home for radon?
- Granite Countertops and Radiation
Short Term Radon Test Kit
10-90 Radon Test Kit
The Rapidos is a short-term radon test that will monitor between 10 to 90 days. This extremely accurate test will take into account all of the daily fluctuations in radon and provide an average concentration.
Long Term Radon Test Kit
90-365 Radon Test Kit
The Radtrak² is a long-term test that will monitor between 90 days and 1 full year. This extremely accurate test will take into account all of the daily fluctuations in radon levels.